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Moving out

Ending your tenancy early

If you wish to end your tenancy agreement early, how you go about it will depend on whom you live with and the contract you have signed.

Shared property

You will probably have an assured shorthold tenancy for a fixed term, usually between six and 12 months. To move out of your accommodation read through your contract for the clauses below and read the instructions which follow.

Break clause

A break clause is specifically written to allow either the landlord or tenant to end the agreement early. The contract should state when you can give notice and how long the notice period should be. 

If you have a joint tenancy agreement, be aware that ending your agreement in this way will dissolve the contract for everyone involved. Forcing everyone else to leave can cause very serious problems. Look for a clause in the contract that allows you to find a replacement for your room.

If you are the only person wanting to leave you should speak to your landlord about advertising your room. You can advertise your room on the Daily Vacancy List by asking your landlord to complete and return our Recommended Code of Standards. You can be the person of contact and arrange for students to view your room. It is also a good idea for prospective tenants to meet the other students in the house. It is possible that one of your current housemates knows someone who would like your room or that your housemates would be willing to cover your rent in order to have the extra space. When you find a replacement for your room you should be released from your contract. 

It is extremely unlikely you will be released from your obligation until a suitable replacement has signed the contract. If you are unhappy in your house it is worth speaking to your landlord about your options.

Make sure you find somewhere to live while looking for a replacement and remember you are responsible for rent and bills until you find a replacement.

After finding a replacement:

  • your name will be removed from the contract;
  • the name of the new tenant is inserted on the contract;
  • the other tenants and the landlord initial and date the changes to the contract;
  • the landlord must refund your share of the deposit; and
  • you should ensure your name is removed from the utility bills.

I don't get on with my housemates anymore and I want to move out – can I give the landlord/agent notice?

You must first check your contract. If there is a clause allowing you to give notice then providing proper notice is given you could move out.

Please note: If you have signed a fixed-term agreement with no such clause then you remain liable for the rent and need to find a replacement tenant.

We have signed a joint contract but one of our housemates has moved out. The landlord/agent is asking us for the money but we feel the tenant should pay, is this fair?

Fairness does not really come into it. The landlord/agents primary concern is to collect the rent. If a joint contract has been signed the landlord/agent can decide whom they pursue for the rent. If the rent remains unpaid it can either be taken from the collective deposits or if court action is taken, the landlord/agent is likely to issue a summons that names all the tenants and their guarantors. The best option is to try and find a suitable replacement as soon as possible.

I have moved out of a shared house but my former housemates are refusing to accept my replacement tenant. What can I do?

If you have a joint contract the remaining tenants have the right to refuse a replacement tenant. However, they can only refuse on reasonable grounds such as the replacement tenant not being a student (liability for council tax). If they continue to refuse suitable replacements it is important to notify the landlord/agent. They may decide to take action against the tenants if rent remains outstanding.

If you have an individual contract then you do not need to get the permission of others in the house. However, the landlord/agent does need to agree. It is rare that the landlord/agent refuses a replacement tenant and they would have to give good reasons for doing so.

Our house is in a poor state of repair – can we move out?

It is very difficult to get out of a property on grounds of disrepair, unless the property lacks the basic facilities and services such as heating and running water; or you're in immediate danger. Disrepair is normally an issue of compensation rather than moving out.

Resident landlord/family home

You have to give your landlord 'reasonable' notice that you intend to leave. Reasonable is usually defined as a rental period. So if you pay your rent monthly you will have to give a month's notice.  If you pay your rent weekly you will have to give a week's notice. Some landlords will wrongly give their tenants an assured shorthold tenancy agreement and say you cannot leave. However, if the landlord lives in the same accommodation the tenancy cannot be an assured shorthold tenancy.

It is a good idea to clarify the notice period with the landlord before you move in. 

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End of tenancy procedures

Planning your move out day will help you to get your deposit back. It is much easier if you start to clean and clear the house earlier rather than doing it all last minute. In the long run it may also save you some money. Arrange to meet your landlord/agent two weeks prior to the contract end date to go through the inventory to hopefully avoid a claim on your deposit. By discussing issues early you will have time to address any problems, thereby increasing the chances of getting your deposit returned in full.  Ideally you should be present at that visit so that you can agree any work that you need to do with the owner/agent. Once you have agreed any differences between the moving in inventory and the moving out one, get the landlord/agent to confirm in writing the agreed differences.

If the landlord/agent is not co-operative and does not visit the property either two weeks before the end of the tenancy or to carry out the inventory check out, you should make your own record of the condition of the property on the last day. You can also take photographs, ensuring they are electronically dated and labelled.

On the last day of the tenancy, arrange for the landlord/agent to visit once again for a check out. The landlord/agent should inspect the property for improvements previously agreed. The landlord/agent should sign and date the moving out inventory.

In the last weeks of your tenancy it is important that every occupant does his or her fair share of work. Avoid individual occupants leaving one by one towards the end of the tenancy and so leaving cleaning to one or two remaining tenants. Work out in advance who will clean what. If you are renting a shared house then you should leave the property in a fit state for the next set of tenants to move in.

If you have signed a joint contract then you are jointly responsible for the whole house and it is important that the whole house is cleaned and left in a good condition.

The following is a check list you may find useful when it comes to vacating your property:

  • Kitchen
    • Clean the floor, inside and outside of cupboards, and the work surfaces. Sink and drainer should be clean, de-scaled and free of cutlery, dishes etc.
    • Cooker, hob/grill/oven: remove grease around dials, switches and doors. Thoroughly clean all parts. It may be necessary to purchase specific oven cleaning products.
    • Fridge and freezer: clean both inside and out, defrost, turn off and leave fridge and freezer doors open.
  • Bathroom
    • Thoroughly clean the bath, shower, washbasin and toilet. We would recommend specific bathroom and toilet cleaning products.
  • Décor
    • There should be no evidence of damage from Sellotape or Blu-Tack. Wipe down walls where necessary and make sure all are clean but take care not to damage paintwork.
  • General
    • Vacuum and dust everywhere including hall, stairs and landing especially skirting boards and light switches which tend to get marked during a tenancy. Make sure you vacuum under the furniture in your room. When you have finished, empty the vacuum cleaner and dispose appropriately.
    • Curtains/blinds should be properly hung and washed or dry cleaned if dirty.
    • Floor coverings should be clean and unmarked.
    • Mould should be removed from walls and ceilings/window frames/bathrooms/shower.
    • Tidy the garden/patio and cut the grass if it is your responsibility.
  • Bins
    • Ensure that all rubbish and recycling is put out for bin collection.
    • We recommend putting out the majority of your rubbish in the preceding weeks as your bin men will refuse large amounts of rubbish in one go – this could lead to a charge for rubbish clearance.
  • Mail
    • Give your bank/building society your new details.
    • Claim any refund that is due at TV Licensing. This may involve providing the licensing company with a copy of your tenancy agreement/notice letter.
    • Let the DVLA know you are changing address if necessary.
    • Change your address for personal bills/correspondence, for example mobile phone/supermarket club card/DVD rental.  
  • Terminate contracts with utilities
    • Contact the utility companies to inform them that you are leaving. Take the final meter readings on the last day of the contract period and give a forwarding address for the final bill.
    • Cancel any telephone and broadband accounts connected to that property.

Other things to remember:

  • Check contact details for each of your housemates if you are going your separate ways in case you need to finalise anything once you have moved out. 
  • Lock all the windows and doors and return the keys to the landlord/estate agent. Any late returns may result in a charge for changing the locks, or further rent being charged until the keys are returned. Do not give the keys to one tenant to return; if they lose them everyone will be responsible.
  • Check the cellar/loft has none of your items left in it.
  • Check that all furniture that was in the rooms at the beginning of the tenancy has been put back. If you have added your own furniture remember to return the original items.
  • Many agents and owners manage large portfolios and will employ cleaners, builders and others to do any work for them, so they will be paying for any effort involved in returning the property to a habitable condition. If the property is left in a poor condition they will pass on these costs (often together with an administrative charge) to you. The owner/agent can take action against the household if the costs of returning the property to a fit condition exceed the total amount paid in deposits.
  • Never have an end of house party on the last day. Always leave at least three days after any social event to clean up and move out.
  • Cleaning issues are the main reason for deposit deductions.

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FAQs for deposit return

How long will it take to get my deposit back?

For deposits taken after the 6 April 2007, you should have received the agreed amount of deposit within 10 days of the end of your tenancy or notification that money is to be withheld. At the end, check whether you are leaving the property and its contents in the condition in which it was let to you – allowing for fair wear and tear – and check that you have paid your rent and any other expenses. Then agree with your landlord or agent how much of the deposit should be returned to you. 

We disagree with the owners/agent's deductions. What can we do?

If your deposit is protected under Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) you can use the dispute resolution procedure to help resolve your dispute. The information for each scheme varies. Please refer to your scheme's website for more information. 

For deposits not covered by the Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme, or if you do not wish to use the TDP dispute resolution, write a letter to the landlord/agent stating detailed reasons for disagreeing with the deductions. You must provide evidence to support your case checking with your housemates that your facts are correct. Allow 14 days for them to respond. 

Can I deduct my deposit from my last month's rent?

No, because that would be a breach of your contract. It's important to keep rent and deposits quite separate. If you are in dispute or feel you are owed money by the landlord/agent then seek legal advice before taking further action.

I am leaving the house a few weeks early can I get my deposit back early?

If it's a joint tenancy the answer is no. The landlord/agent will want to inspect the house and check all rent is paid etc before returning deposits. If there is no joint contract, it may be possible for you to come to an arrangement for the early return of the deposit. Speak to your landlord/agent.

We cannot afford to pay the final utility bills, can we leave our deposit for the owner/agent to pay them?

No, not if the bills are in the names of the tenants – the utility companies will chase the named persons and not the landlord/agent. If you share a house with the landlord then an agreement could be reached for the bills to be taken from the deposit. Request a copy of the bills to ensure you are paying the correct amount.

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Deposit recovery

The return of the damage deposit is the number one cause of dispute between landlords and tenants and the one which most frequently ends up being resolved by the courts.

If your landlord is refusing to refund all or part of the deposit and you disagree with his reason, or if you cannot contact him or he denies responsibility, then you need to take action.

Firstly, write to your landlord asking for the return of the deposit and their written reasons why they're retaining it. Keep copies of any letters you send or receive; you will need them if you have to take action in the county court.

If you are not happy with the landlord's response or there is none, you will need to seek advice about where to go for help either negotiating with the landlord or taking them to court. Going to court is not that expensive.

In addition, the National Union of Students has specific advice on their website and in conjunction with UNIPOL they have produced the Tenancy Deposit Protection Enforcement Pack (PDF).

This pack gives tenants information about:

  • whether your deposits should be protected  and how you can get your deposit protected;
  • standard letters you can send to your landlords; and
  • court procedures you can use to get your deposit protected/returned.

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